Sunday, August 21, 2005
On Rock Erosion
Mrs. Wolf and I recently took a trip to Niagara Falls. We had a truly wonderful trip. We had a wonderful view of the Falls from our hotel room, where I took the picture at right of the Horseshoe Falls early in the morning.
One of the things that we learned about the Falls while we were there is that the Falls are receding every year due to rock erosion. All the water going over the falls causes the rock underneath it to erode a few inches each year. Previously, it used to erode up to ten feet a year, but that was slowed when a large percentage of the water that goes over the falls was diverted to electrical plants further up the Niagara River. But 2000 years ago, the falls used to be located all the way up beyond where the Rainbow Bridge currently is.
Of course, the concept of erosion is nothing new. I don't know about other cultures, but Jews have certainly known about it for at least 2000 years. Evidence for this comes from the story of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva was an unlearned man in his forties living in Israel. The son of a convert, he never spent much time studying and was totally lacking in learning. As the story goes, one day he observed a hole in a rock formation, caused by flowing (or dripping) water. He reasoned that if the water, which is soft, could penetrate the hard rock, then surely Torah could penetrate his soul if he worked at it hard enough. The rest, of course, is history. Rabbi Akiva went on to become one of the greatest Tana'im in the Mishna and one of the most recognizable names in Jewish history.
Of course, we see evidence of rock erosion all around us. The best example that comes to mind, of course, is that of the Grand Canyon, which was caused by the Colorado River over the course of many years. One can very easily see the layers of the canyon formed by the river over the course of the millenia. There is really no other way (other than "it was created that way") to explain the formation of the Grand Canyon. A worldwide flood certainly would not have caused the canyon to form the way it did. Even Paul Bunyan's plow couldn't have caused the layering that appears in the rock formations. But, of course, expect more Jews to believe in the Paul Bunyan story than to believe that it took the millions of years required to form the Grand Canyon.
I find it odd how people can have evidence of certain facts literally right in front of their faces, but fail to see it. Rock erosion is certainly not some "theory" that scientists cook up... it can be observed right in front of us at the Niagara Falls and at other places around the world. Even the Gemara attests to it with the Rabbi Akiva story. And yet, when you point to the Grand Canyon, you get "water could never do that" from the Young Earth Creationist crowd. Sometimes it's just very frustrating...